Towards a new Suzuki withdrawal in MotoGP?

The news fell like thunder on Monday late in the afternoon in the paddock: Suzuki would leave MotoGP at the end of the 2022. factory season. However, our different sources within the team tend rather in this direction …

The Hamamatsu firm has already done something similar in the past. In fact, Suzuki left the queen category at the end of 2011, the last year of the 800cc era before the entry into force of the 1000cc we know today. This decision arose after the 2008 financial crisis.

Some key moments of Suzuki’s MotoGP journey

The factory returned in 2015 with Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales assembling a completely new machine, the GSX-RR. Randy De Puniet had also been able to evaluate him in real conditions as a guest driver during the final of the 2014 calendar in Valencia. At the time, the new project was led by Davide Brivio, who now operates Alpine in F1.

The Italian, who was behind the signing of Valentino Rossi at Yamaha in 2004, elevated the Japanese firm’s project to rider and team titles in 2020, this infamous season affected by the Covid-19. Despite this first-class title for Suzuki since 2000 with Kenny Roberts Jr., Brivio decided to set out on new horizons during the winter. The team did not choose to replace him, but split his duties between Shinichi Sahara, Suzuki’s MotoGP project director, and Ken Kawauchi, technical director.

If on paper this decision seemed possible, in practice, it was not so. In addition to having to develop the bikes, it was also necessary to manage the contracts, the staff, the sponsors … As a consequence (or not), since 2020, Suzuki has not won even once. Of 11 podiums, including three victories, Suzuki riders Alex Rins and Joan Mir only recorded seven last year. By the way, development has lagged behind; for example, we only saw the gait device appear on the back of the Styria GP last year compared to other factories that already had it long before.

For these many reasons, Livio Suppo has been called up to take over the team before the opening of the 2022 season and is preparing for the future in full negotiation. With Rins and Mir at the end of their contracts in 2022, a manager of Suppo’s caliber was no luxury, especially for approaching star riders like Fabio Quartararo. A new team manager, a more powerful engine developed during the winter, a 500 podium from the GP in Austin … everything seemed to go like clockwork for Suzuki.

There is no official confirmation … yet

But that’s not to mention this news that shocked the entire paddock Monday evening, starting with staff members and drivers. This is even more surprising since the manufacturer signed last year the extension of its commitment to Dorna (promoter of the championship) until 2026. In addition, the Spanish company did not stop stipulating it through a press release released on Tuesday in which he recalled that the factory could not break this contract unilaterally (although, of course, a mutual agreement is possible).

Several reasons have been put forward by different means, especially financial. Suzuki is, in fact, the only grilled manufacturer that doesn’t have a titular sponsor; Ecstar is an oil that emanates from the plant itself. In the context of the return to post-Covid normalcy, finding funding is more difficult than before 2020, although Dorna has not hesitated to put his hand in his pocket for two years to help the whole paddock maintain the out of the water. . Some also believe that Joan Mir’s title would have made little noise compared to Fabio Quartararo’s last year, the health context did not help. The return on investment may have discouraged the factory.

Some also believe that Suzuki, affected by Dieselgate at its car branch, would take the initiative in anticipation of possible financial sanctions. And others think Suzuki would rather focus on emerging markets like Asia to develop its two-wheeler range than more mature markets.

What about the 2023 grid?

In case of withdrawal, the MotoGP 2023 grid runs the risk of turning upside down completely. Quartararo, in conversations with Suzuki among others, should finally head for an extension to Yamaha.

According to Mir manager Paco Sanchez, in the columns of our fellow The Race, not having made any announcements is not yet professional on the part of Suzuki. Especially because Mir were in discussion to expand. The future of the Mallorcan should materialize in the Honda clan (even Yamaha alongside Quartararo according to some rumors). As for Alex Rins, co-leader of the overall standings after Portimão, the horizon is uncertain.

If she does not know if the grid will remain at 24 riders, La Dorna for her part indicated that manufacturers and teams were interested in reclaiming the two seats from the Suzuki team. However, the arrival of a new manufacturer seems difficult. You don’t get into MotoGP with a machine developed in a few months. That is why we can consider the promotion of GasGas to the premier category. On paper, it would be a new manufacturer like Moto3, although behind it is KTM RC16.

Among the teams are Leopard Racing, which plays Moto3, and American Racing, Moto2, which have not hidden their desire to make the move. With which manufacturer? Aprilia is looking to introduce two more RS-GPs. And with the results of A. Espargaro is a more attractive machine than a few years ago.

On the other hand, if the grid goes back to the 22 riders, in the game of musical chairs, logically two riders will be without handlebars and some Moto2 deserters could climb like Celestino Vietti and Ai Ogura; the Japanese were approached at CSF instead of Takaaki Nakagami. Andrea Dovizioso could retire permanently, but the equation is not yet balanced: Pol Espargaro, Takaaki Nakagami and Alex Rins would meet with their beaks in the water.

It was Golden Week in Japan with four holidays, so maybe that’s why there hasn’t been an official Suzuki statement yet. The few days before the French GP are likely to spill a lot of ink.

Leave a Comment